May 24, 2024

Lizzo’s Big Grrrl touring company is coming to the singer’s defense in a new motion to dismiss the lawsuit accusing her and the company of sexual harassment, discrimination and fat-shaming, among other charges.

A total of 18 of Lizzo’s employees have written lengthy declarations in dispute of the claims first filed by a trio of former dancers. Plaintiffs Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez first made their accusations public in August and received public support from an Oscar-nominated director who exited her role in a Lizzo documentary in 2019 because she “was treated with such disrespect” by the Grammy-winning pop star.

According to new court documents filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday and obtained by Variety, Lizzo’s attorneys — comprised of a legal team led by Martin D. Singer — call the lawsuit a “fabricated sob story” and say the plaintiffs “filed this lawsuit against defendants out of spite and in pursuit of media attention, public sympathy and a quick payday with minimal effort.”

“Plaintiffs missed flights, arrived late and hungover to rehearsals and drunk to performances, entered into consensual sexual relationships with male crew members on tour, exhibited a rapid decline in the quality of their dancing and professionalism, and ultimately conspired to make and disseminate an unauthorized recording of a creative meeting with Lizzo and the dance cast,” the motion reads.

Members of Lizzo’s touring company also deny ever witnessing or experiencing body shaming or other forms of harassment during their time with Lizzo, who has made body positivity a focus of her stardom.

Among the many allegations pointed against Lizzo, the plaintiffs claim she invited them out without telling them they would be attending a nude cabaret bar — “robbing them of the choice not to participate,” the original lawsuit states. On one particular occasion at the Bananenbar bar in Amsterdam’s red light district, Davis said she expressed her desire to not touch the performers “three times, loud enough for all to hear,” but was still forced to perform actions that she was not comfortable making.

As part of the newly-released declarations made by 18 of Lizzo’s staffers, dancer Melissa Locke said she spoke with Davis and Rodriguez the morning after they attended this bar, “They never said they felt uncomfortable or pressured,” she writes. “They were very enthusiastic about what a great night out they had. I remember telling them, ‘That sounds like so much fun, I wish you had woken me up to go with you.’ They agreed that it was a fun night and told me that they went out in the Red Light District after. They did not complain or sound upset in any way.”

Davis has also claimed that the “About Damn Time” singer called out her weight gain in the original suit, even though she had been open about her eating disorder with the management company in advance.

Asia Banks, a dancer and contestant on Lizzo’s “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls,” where the majority of her dancers were recruited from, added: “I would say that I was the biggest dancer on the tour. Lizzo always went out of her way to make me feel secure and confident in my body, including by making sure I was comfortable in every single costume for the show. Lizzo gave us an incredible opportunity as plus-size dancers. A lot of artists will maybe hire one plus-sized dancer to fill a “diversity” quota for their show. But Lizzo assembled an entire group of plus-size dancers to showcase our talent and celebrate us. Lizzo really made us part of a team of unstoppable plus-size women.”

In Friday’s motion, Lizzo’s lawyers argue that the case should be dismissed under the anti-SLAPP statute — a law that if employed, would protect Lizzo under free speech by dismissing meritless lawsuits.

In a statement obtained by Variety and issued by the Los Angeles attorney representing Davis, Williams and Rodgriguez, Neama Rahmani responded: “Even a first-year law student can see that ‘free speech’ does not cover Lizzo and her team’s illegal sexual harassment and racial, religious, and disability discrimination. And filming a reality TV show doesn’t give Lizzo the right to break the law.”

She additionally stated that “our clients have dozens of independent witnesses who support their stories,” and that they are still receiving “inquiries from other former Lizzo employees who want to be new plaintiffs.”

Lizzo asked the court to dismiss the sexual harassment lawsuit in September after receiving the Black Music Action Coalition’s Quincy Jones Humanitarian Award. Should the case not be dismissed, Lizzo seeks a trial by jury to fight the lawsuit.

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